Europe closes higher as Renault jumps 6%; Stoxx 600 down 5% for the quarter

  • Renault led the gains following a media report that the company could merge with Nissan.
  • SoftBank is looking at buying a 25 percent stake in reinsurer Swiss Re, Reuters reported.

Stocks in Europe finished higher Thursday afternoon, on the last trading day of the quarter, with a rally in the autos sector helping to boost investor sentiment.

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The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed up 0.6 percent provisionally with most sectors finishing in positive territory. For the whole quarter, the benchmark still finished lower by 5 percent after steep falls earlier in the year.

Autos were the top gainers Thursday, driven higher by Renault. The car maker's shares were up by 6 percent following a media report that the company could merge with Nissan. The shares traded close to a 10-year high earlier on the news, but the firm has declined to comment on the report.

Electrocomponents was also among the top performers after a rating upgrade. Furthermore, Swiss Re rose 2 percent after a report that the Japanese group SoftBank is looking at buying a 25 percent stake in the reinsurer.

U.S. stocks traded higher Thursday, as the technology sector tried to curb steep declines seen in recent sessions.

More corporate news and data

In other corporate news, Deutsche Bank Chief John Cryan sent a letter to its employees vowing full commitment to the bank after reports that he could soon be sacked.

In terms of data, German unemployment figures reached a record low in March at 5.3 percent, according to new data. Meanwhile, the U.K.'s current account deficit was £18.4 billion in the last quarter of 2017, lower than what analysts had expected.

Earlier, the latest Nationwide housing prices in the U.K. showed a drop of 0.2 percent month-on-month in March, below the consensus.